Red Sox History: Look to the past for the present on pitching

TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 22: Jake Peavy #44 of the Boston Red Sox during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 22, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 22: Jake Peavy #44 of the Boston Red Sox during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 22, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Red Sox will need to hunt for quality pitching depth

I’ve got some great oceanfront property in Idaho for sale for Red Sox fans that are ecstatic over our rotation and pitching in general. According to FanGraphs, the staff ERA ranks 9th in the American League, with the bullpen and rotation ranking below average.

Sale is the keyword, as in lefty Chris Sale. With lingering concerns over his baseball health, Mr. Sale may not be an integral part of the rotation. Apply the same to James Paxton.

Pitching can be an illusion with performance. The performance will be exceptional for a week or two or even longer, as pitchers lure you into complacency and then a dramatic tailspin of inept performances. A scout once stated pitching is like health and money in that you never have enough.

Where are you, Jake Peavy and Tom Seaver? Or even Bret Saberhagen? The Red Sox will need a solid veteran who can pick up some quality innings and keep them on the hunt. Peavy did that in 2013 and Seaver in 1986.

At the end of July 1986, the Red Sox went to the White Sox and brought in 300+ game-winner Tom Seaver. Seaver made 16 starts going a pedestrian 5-7, but it was enough. A solid addition to the staff that went to the World Series.

Seaver had no impact on the playoffs as a balky knee shut down the future Hall of Fame hurler, but Tom Terrific was instrumental in Boston getting there. For Boston, this was not Garrett Richards of Martín Pérez.

In 2013, the Red Sox made a three-way deal, with the most critical aspect being for former Cy Young winner Peavy to come to Boston. The righty was skillful pitching for the White Sox (8-4, 4.28), and Boston went for him.  Boston’s trading deadline deal was much needed for their run to the division, and Peavy didn’t disappoint.

Peavy was not the hurler who captured two ERA titles and once led the National League in wins (19), but Peavy had savvy, experience, and a desirable BB%. Would it be enough?

Peavy’s contribution to Boston’s championship run was essential, going 4-1 in ten starts. In 2014, the run was over, and Peavy stood at 1-9 before being shipped to San Francisco, where he again contributed to a championship, posting a 6-4 record and another Wold Series ring.

Just who was Saberhagen? Sabs was one of the best for years for those who go back a bit. Saberhagen made his original mark with the Kansas City Royals winning two Cy Young Awards before injuries hit, and did they ever. Eventually, Boston signed Saberhagen as a free agent for 1997. Saberhagen did nothing (0-1, 6.58) but returned in 1998.

Boston fans saw the Saberhagen of old for the next two seasons – significantly 1998 (15-8, 3.96) and, to a lesser degree, 1999 ( 10-6, 2.95). In both seasons, the Red Sox made it into the playoffs.

Saberhagen missed all of the 2000 season and attempted another comeback in 2001, but the pitching tank was empty. Saberhagen just knew how to pitch even when his velocity disappeared. A career 1.7 BB% shows the value of control once the heater has lost its zip.

Conversely, the process often results in abysmal failures, such as John Smoltz and Eric Gagne. And add one other to the 21st-century list that presented less than spectacular returns – David Wells – although he had his moments, especially compared to Gagne and Smoltz.

The Red Sox signed Rich Hill and Michael Wacha, but neither has the pitching resume of the three previously mentioned. So far, it has worked just like Matt Barnes worked for a half-season in 2021. Depth is the eternal need for a pitching staff.

Internal options are limited, and the staff will need additions, especially if the Red Sox indeed right a sinking ship. Hitting can cover just so much, and (thankfully) the pitching may not be splendid but has been passable, but passable will not suffice over 162 games.  A long season awaits with the inevitable breakdowns that all teams encounter.

dark. Next. Schreiber is emerging as a trusted option

The Red Sox will pin some future cred on a recovering Sale and the eventual return of Paxton. Meanwhile, Chaim Bloom will be scoping out the MLB landscape to fortify his pitching staff, and there is always the potential of a present-day Peavy or Seaver.